It seemed that the arrival of vaccines in almost all of Europe was opening up a new phase of optimism in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. But just as the vaccination plans were preparing to start at the end of December, new bad news came: in the penultimate week of the month, the British government announced the discovery of a new strain of the virus on the islands. As it was reported in the world's media, it had a much greater capacity to spread. And reactions from the mainland were quick.
Thus, although it is known that viruses are constantly changing through mutations that lead to the appearance of new variants, the characteristics of this strain forced changes in the way the pandemic was dealt with. And in this context, European governments began to close their borders in those days of December with the British country, where most cases of this new strain were located. Among these governments, of course, was that of Spain.
In order to limit the spread and infection of this new strain of the virus in its territory, the Council of Ministers of the Spanish Government, by means of provision 16822 of the BOE, Order PCM/1237/2020 of 22 December, agreed to implement exceptional measures in the fight against COVID-19. These measures mainly concerned the temporary limitation of direct flights and passenger ships between the United Kingdom and Spanish airports and ports. These measures were mainly related to the temporary limitation of direct flights and passenger ships between the United Kingdom and Spanish airports and ports.
The implementation of these measures was the last of the legislative changes to deal with the pandemic. These changes are due to start in March 2020. On the 14th of that month, Royal Decree 463/2020 was signed, which made it possible to deal with the health emergency situation with the aim of protecting the health and safety of citizens. After the de-escalation process and the end of the state of alarm, the country entered a new phase of normality before last summer. To this end, Royal Decree Law 21/2020 of 9 June was implemented. Subsequently, with the outbreaks that began in October in Spain and the increase in the incidence of the virus, Royal Decree 926/2020 of 25 October. And finally, Royal Decree 956/2020 of 3 November extended the state of alarm declared by Royal Decree 926/2020 of 25 October until midnight on 9 May 2021.
Now, in view of the new situation that has arisen in Great Britain, the Spanish Government has defended the need to adopt coordinated measures at European Union level, thus reinforcing the health checks carried out on passengers arriving from the United Kingdom. In addition, it also considered it justified to temporarily restrict passenger flights and ships from the United Kingdom to Spain.
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By virtue of this, the Council of Ministers, at the proposal of the Ministers of Health and Transport, Mobility and the Urban Agenda, at its meeting on 22 December 2020, has agreed:
- Limit flights or boats coming from the United Kingdom, outside the limitations specified in the BOE. These include aircraft or boats with Spanish nationals returning to their country.
- These limitations will be effective from 6 p.m. on 22 December 2020 (Spanish mainland time) until 6 p.m. on 5 January 2021 (Spanish mainland time).
- This legislative amendment also addresses the particular case of Gibraltar. As this is a territory where flights from the United Kingdom land, the Home Office will take the appropriate measures to ensure compliance with this agreement, also at the border of Gibraltar with Spain.
- The Council of Ministers also agreed on how to communicate these measures. This will be done through the Ministry of Transport, Mobility and Urban Agenda to the European Commission and the rest of the Member States and, through the Ministry of Health, to the World Health Organisation in application of the International Health Regulations.
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